An archive of posts tagged career.

Why fixed 9-5 working time is bad for video game

2 min read

I often wander between favouring and hating the idea of a 9-5 culture atwork. On the one hand it fits in nicely with a family life where we workto enjoy ourselves, we turn up, do some work, go home and disconnect andplug ourselves into an entirely separate life.On the other hand, what we do as game developers is a creative process,it requires thinking, passion and creativity that simply cannot beturned on and off at preset times of day.Imagine a day likethis: 9am – be creative and passionate when you punch in 12pm – stop being creative and thinking about your art. 1pm – start being creative again, now, you’ve only got 4.5hrsremaining 5.30pm – stop thinking, park your creativity, go home, disconnect rinse and repeat.

How To Improve Your Video Game Developer CV

1 min read

The way we apply for roles is still baked into the tradition of a paper CV along with the formatting that goes with it. Stop, think about it.Imagine your Resume sat in a pile with the recruiter shuffling throughthem at high speed, what makes your CV stand out? Do you get your keymessage across in the 1st few lines?Does the recruiter need to know your address and education first? Do wecare about what you did 10 years ago? What are you offering? How do youfit the role you’re applying for? Does it communicate you?If you’re an artist or designer, show your creativity in your CV.Remember, if you’re CV passes through an agency they will inevitablystrip it of all of your contact information and ultimately re-format it.

How do you think?

2 min read

When working with other people it’s important to consider how they see things, as their view is often very different from your own perspective. In ourworld of game development there are, broadly speaking, 2 high level waysof looking at things.Firstly let me put things in perspective by explaining that I come froma background of logic that took me in the direction of Programming,which I found a good fit for me. I lived in a world of abstractlanguages, numbers and weird concepts and the ‘creative’ people justdidn’t understand. I arrogantly thought that anyone could draw picturesand it took raw talent to do what I was doing. These were the days whennon-programmers were paid a pittance and weren’t coveted by businesses.Those were the days when programming skill made for better games.

10,000 hours to success as a game developer

1 min read

In 2008, Gladwell’s book “Outliers: The Story of Success” repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. This equates to 1,250 working days, or 5 working years of focus on your core skill.Is this how long it took you to get to call yourself a successful? Icertainly wonder just how much of anyone’s skill or experience isrelevant anymore. I believe only the last 5 years is relevant to whatyou do as the rest is just old hat and knowledge that can be easilyachieved by someone chasing your heels.The kicker is, it can all disappear in an instant for no apparentreason.

Weakest Link - Be A Better Game Developer

1 min read

![](/assets/FEATURE_YenYen_GlassCeiling.jpg)Has your business hit a glass ceiling?Most businesses are formed by a core set of individuals who cometogether at the beginning to make their collective dream come true butare they limiting your potential?Business roles arise and distil over time placing more specialiseddemands on your skills.  Operations Manager, Creative Director,Technical Director, Art Director, Finance Director, DevelopmentDirector, Managing Director, Business Development, Human Resources, IT,Marketing etc. all grow in significance as your business grows.In the early days one person will perform multiple roles at once, theroles are typically allocated based on relative merit, e.g., the morecreative person takes on the creative roles such as creative director,the more logical person becomes the business manager. What happens later is that the business demands more than one person’spotential enables them to deliver and the business hits a glass ceiling.Your business can only be as strong as that of the weakest link in thechain.The hard part is recognising that this is happening and doing somethingabout it. Maybe there's a shift in roles to something more appropriate,maybe it's time to step aside and bring in someone who can really pushthings along, maybe you're happy where you are?

Are you and your game unique?

1 min read

In a world of seemingly infinite choice of games and staff, how do youstand out? How can you differentiate your offering so that everyonewants it? How can you make it easier for people to find your needle in aglobal haystack? Why would someone employ you from a global talent poolof thousands of people?These are all things to consider if you’re going to be successful atwhat you do; communication, experience and knowledge can help guide yourway through this chaotic landscape and achieve your goals.

20 years of a Video Game Developer’s Career – Part 4

9 min read

I’d like to share with you my game development career experience as partof a series of posts, let’s rejoin the story at during the twilight daysof PlayStation 2 when I started at Kuju in Sheffield. I’ve included alot of photos in this post so you may even make an appearance!Kuju Sheffield v1Iwas fortunate to be have formed strong relationships with people acrossthe industry and I was brought in as employee #2 for the newly formedKuju studio in Sheffield where the next phase of my career beganincluding many of the people I’d worked with in Leeds on the emergingplatforms.Kuju had recently been listed on the stock market and was expandingrapidly with studios in Guildford, London, Brighton and now Sheffield.Starting out at Kuju Sheffield was an exciting time, there wereessentially 4 of us in the 1st few weeks holed up inside a tiny officeunder one of the stands of the football stadium for Sheffield United.The room was long and thin with only a high tiny window at one end andit was very reminiscent of the early days of my career back at Alligata.In this tiny space we not only crammed ourselves but an immense serverrack that was built for the future, the server itself was incrediblynoisy and it appeared to be made even more so by the small environment.The room soon became hot and noisy but we were enjoying ourselves.Dave, Nick, Tony and myself beavered away making a few PS2/X360/PC portsfor the main Kuju office while we found our feet and got our ownprojects, which didn’t take long and we were expanding quickly. Date: 2003 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 4 Projects: 1 Platforms: PlayStation 2, XBox, PCKuju Sheffield v1.1 Within a few weeks we expanded into a larger office on the same floorthat took us up to about 15 people before we needed to move again. Wewere working on a football game for Codemasters at this point and westarted to bring in some great staff who were unfortunate casualties ofthe demise of Warthog studios. It would turn out that we’d stay togetherfor many years and we had a great time.Working under a football stadium posed its own challenges with the mostprominent one being that we weren’t allowed in the building during aperiod of 2hrs before to 2hrs after a match! This was particularlyfrustrating when we had deadlines to hit as we were simply evacuatedfrom the building. As producer/project manager, I even went to theextent of planning the milestones to avoid home match days.The servers furiously buzzed away in the corner and we delivered thegame on time and this won us another contract.I was named as Technical Director at this point but I was pretty muchdoing anything that needed to bedone: building desks, installingcabling, running servers, finance, business development, training,project management, programming and a load of other stuff. All the stuffeveryone does in a small business and it was fun.We delivered the game on PS2 and XBox as a team and we were hungry forme but we really need to move out so we relocated across town into theposh Media Center. Date: 2003 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 10-15 **Projects:** 1 Platforms: PlayStation 2, XBox, PCKuju Sheffield v1.2 Our studioincreased quickly over the next few years peaking at about 40 staffacross 3 projects being made on PC, PSP, Xbox & PS2.We had specialist staff now and we started to get some real traction.We were making a Flight Simulator for PSP, Football Action game forconsole, Football Management game for PC, Social Quiz game for PS2,Fitness game connected to a cross-trainer, TV<>game cross-over pilotand lots of little trinkets on the side.People came and went but we remained pretty stable and everyone appearedto be enjoying themselves.My named role as Tech Director was now largely being done by one of ouroriginal lead programmers where I was pretty much acting as DevDirector, setting out production process, managing finance, workingacross sites and a myriad of other things.I attended frequent meetings with the Execs at Kuju presenting projects,new business and finance reports all of which I’d prepared and ran. Ihad good relationships with our clients as I was their day-to-daycontact.I was also getting more involved in the people side of the businessagain, hiring, firing, reviewing and applying the regular attention thatan active group of developers required.Despite all of this, we were struggling to get in new work along withmany other developers and the prospects didn’t look good. Date: 2005 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 15-35 **Projects:** 3 Platforms: PlayStation 2, XBox, PCKuju v2.0 - The King is Dead What happened nextwas a blur of rapid change.Our incumbent Studio Manager retired and I was asked to take over as I’dbeen doing a large part of the work anyway. It didn’t feel like much ofa change for these reasons and I relished the opportunity to take thestudio forwards.I made a promise toeveryone: I would take us into a new era and get us a ‘next-gen’ project, we would do this by standing on the shoulders of Unreal 3. We would develop expertise in this area that would benefit usall.Numerous people shifted around within the studio, backfilling all thepositions and this gave everyone a new round of energy.I worked hard over a few months and I got us another contract - thistime it was significant as it was on ‘next-gen’ consoles and representeda massive improvement in our prospects. We all relished the opportunity.We began work on our game, really pushing ourselves and learning newplatforms and new ways of working.Werapidly ran out of space and we outgrew our offices where the mainproblem was that our expansion had caused us to take on additional,separate, offices in the same building. This was workable previously aswe’d been split across 3 games in 3 offices so it kinda worked but itfailed when all of us were on 1 project.In hindsight, this is a great way to scale up. Take on multiple smallprojects then combine your team to make a larger team for a singleproject.So, I hunted around for a new home for our studio and I found one justaround the corner. Date: 2005 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 30-35 **Projects:** 1 Platforms: PlayStation 2, XBox, PCKuju v2.1 - Custom Fit Office Our newoffices was brilliant. I managed to find us a large open-plan space andI planned the floor space incorporating meeting rooms, a small office(for me), storage space, kitchen and other bits and bobs. We got tochoose the colour scheme, flooring and everything! Of course I can’tclaim sole ownership of all of this.Our Art Director, Nick, and Tech Director, Dino, and many other peopleplayed a key role in making this a success.It took a few weeks to come together and we were so excited to bemoving, even it if was just around the corner.I think it’s safe to say that we enjoyed our new space.We had exciting times too, we had people trapped in a lift and had to call out the fire brigade that amused everyone except those trapped and we there was also a MASSIVE fire opposite our building and we just watched from our windows.During all of this we were still working on our game and all of ourother commitments but it all seemed to gel.I structured the studio to be as agile as possible and we started toinvade the new territory of Outsourcing the artwork that very few peoplewere doing at the time. It just made complete sense.Meeting the Stars Our football game was a dream come true for a handful of us as we wentto Barcelona and Milan to go behind the scenes of the largest clubs atBarcelona, Inter Milan and AC Milan to capture reference of the stars. From all 3 teams we got to meet all the stars, agents and managers,take detailed reference photos of everyone from many angles. We evenwent out for dinner with LionelMessi!Kuju v3.0 - becoming ChemistryThe higher-level business was goingthrough a transition. The many Kuju studios in London, 2 in Guildford,Sheffield and Brighton all had their own niche and identity and it wasbecoming increasingly confusing for us internally and it also must havebeen very strange for our prospective clients. We would attend meetingsand say “Hi, we’re from Kuju and…” …. “Didn’t we just see you guys?”… “No, that must have been one of our other studios…we specialise inX and would like to show you Y”. etc.Re-branding was the order of the day, Brighton went first and became ZoeMode and we followed on quickly afterwards changing our name toChemistry.The name Chemistry worked for us, it represented us bringing togetherdifferent elements of a game and making something new and neverexperienced before. It solidified our messaging and provided a greatidentity for us as a studio to get behind. We had banners, marketing,press, t-shirts and a whole range of other things branded up. Ouroffices were white, clean, sterile with a few hints of colour.Back on the floor, I’d also been pushingnew contracts and we were now working on 3 separate PS3 and X360 games.We had an FPS, a Football game and we were also helping Midway out onone of their projects.As a studio, we were immensely busy and the amount of personal work wasstacking up plus I was aiming to keep everything on an even keel.Due to the nature of working as a remote office, as well as running 3next-gen projects and running a studio I was left also doing Officemanagement, HR, finance, answering the phones, ordering toilet rolls,managing servers, doing the post, fixing desktop systems, buildingfurniture among other things.As management, there was myself and 1 other Project Manager doing all ofthis together. You can imagine what this did to me as a result. Date: 2007 Role: Anything going Studio Size: 35-40 **Projects:** 3 Platforms: PlayStation 3, XBox 360, PCEnough is enoughDespite great prospects and a wonderful team, I’d had enough and I worked with the Execs to bring in Mike as a replacement Studio Head and I sadly quickly left the business with nowhere else to go. These were tough times and sometimes people just won’t listen to repeated cries for support and see the issues that are staring them right in the face. It sometimes takes a drastic measure to make people realise what’s goingoff.So, I left Kuju and a great team. My time at Kuju was the happiest andmost complete I’d ever felt and it felt like I’d let a lot of peopledown but I had to move on.What next? Across to the dark sideThe next phase of my career was completely unknown and it took me a fewmonths to find a role that suited me. I was fortunate to have 2 greatoffers: 1 from Codemasters, 1 from Sony. Which one did I take?This is where we’ll join the story next time…A few memoriesFurther Reading Series Part1 Series Part2 Series Part3

Avoiding Redundancy 2

2 min read

I very recently wrote a post entitled ‘Why Does Redundancy AlwaysHappen In GameDevelopment?’ that kinda hit the spot with a few people and I think it needs more context so I thought it worthwhile giving a separate update.It’s a tough topic to discuss and it always hasnegative connotations but it’s a fact of life and ignoring it and notbeing prepared is a bad thing.I can totally see how the provocative title and lack of context could have riled some people so here’s some context. Redundancy is obviously a real and horrible event that happens and it can be mitigated by properly running a business but it’s largely inevitable.My recent experience is based around running mid to large-scale teams of30-80 people across multiple projects and the level of commitment thatgoes with that. My focus is on quality, delivery and profitability ofall the work I do. The original post was intended to make people awareof the fact that if they do not consider what happens at the end of aproject and blindly go off on a creative whim then don’t be surprised ifyour business fails. This is obviously fine if you’re motives are purelyhobbyist and you never intended to be a business, or stay really smallanyway.Outside of the hobby developers making video games is an “industry”about making money, for which you need to “shift boxes”. As much as welike to think we’re being totally creative, most people in video gamesonly do this so they can pay their bills. After all, we all need to livesomewhere and pay for food for which we need money, that we get frommaking games, that people buy.It’s actually a “box shifting creative industry”, I completely supportthat as it’s ultimately creativity that sells games and the 2 areintrinsically linked. There is 1 more important criteria though, whichis quality. Quality sells games like hot cakes and there are manyfactors towards driving quality upwards. Oh, and marketing, goodmarketing will sell the most un-creative/poor quality things as I’m sureyou’ve witnessed. Oh and theaqueducts. :)During my career I have seen all the problems occur in business time andtime again from big businesses through to small businesses, I’veoccasionally been part of the mess and more frequently seen others getcaught up in the demise of a company. In pretty much all of these casesit’s been avoidable.Businesses, regardless of what they’re doing, need to be agile and ableto cope with the ebb and flow of the demands during the productionlifecycle. Smart use of outsourcing, freelance / contract staff in theright place and prove fruitful and help you’re business remain stableand able to weather the storm. I have strived to ensure that projectsand I run and businesses I’m involved with consider this and mitigatethe risk of redundancy where possible.Thankfully, redundancy always presents new opportunities and it’s timeto pick yourself up and get back on the horse. After all, what doesn’tkill you only makes you stronger.0bf3b211ae94473c89f5b05cc5f3cc23

Why Does Redundancy Always Happen In Game Development?

4 min read

It’s worth understanding why redundancies are a natural consequence foran independent studio when they finish a project.Firstly, it’s important to understand that the end of the project isalways the point when the team is the largest, QA come onboard, peopleare generally added to get the project delivered to a high enoughquality.So, what happens when the project ships? What do all of these people do?As much as we’d like to believe that 100% of the team have meaningfulwork, it’s not going to be the case. With the best will in the world a studio will plan follow-on revenuegenerating work but it’s incredibly rare that this work magicallydove-tails into utilising 100% of the available team, or even areasonable chunk of the team. Support work, patching and conceptingfuture projects may all soak up some people but all of this work isstill supported by the revenue of the game that’s now shipped and thecash flow has likely stopped.It’s quite common for studios to work for payments that are milestonebased and low margin so they can remain competitively priced and alsopay the wages but this money stops at the point of delivery. Some gamesare developed against an advance for royalties that usually means thegame was developed for almost no profit on the basis of a big upsideshould the royalties kick in. Publishers are generally not interested in paying for your team to idlearound between projects, they want to pay for the work only and eventhen it needs to be competitively priced.The danger is obviously the low and frequently negative profit marginsduring development that don’t provide a buffer to get the studio throughthe gaps between work.Imagine you’ve made a generous 15% net profit over the life of theproject and you haven’t spent any of this money on other things and it’sjust sitting in the bank. The obvious extension to this is that ifnothing changes you can remain open for 15% of the projects durationbefore your cash runs out and you’re bankrupt. So, if you’re projecttook 9 months to make, you’ve got enough money to fund you through a gapof 1 month. Using this example, if the team is reduced to 25% of itssize then the money will last 4 times longer for those that are stillresident.In reality, it’s not that straight forward because there’s a lot ofother factors coming into play and you’ve now got a big team in placeand a lot of mouths to feed so you’re commitment is high. No businessoperates in this way and net profit doesn’t go into the bank for a rainyday. It’s typically used to fund other opportunities to expand thebusiness such as paying for over promising / under delivering,concepting, attending conferences, preparing pitches, R&D and a load ofother things. Making people redundant also costs money too so it’s notsomething a business can enter into lightly.So, the natural conclusion is that a studio can’t operate by employing100% of the team 100% of the time and support that entireinfrastructure when there’s little or no money coming in. It’s simplynot going to work.The only sustainable way for single project independent studios to keepthis going is to operate on a Core+Contract basis where everyoneinvolved works on the understanding that the Core is a small set ofpeople that are central to the business and it’s buffered up withContract / Outsource work that is clearly only commissioned when it’sneeded. In this way everyone knows what their commitment is and there’sfewer surprises. The non-Core people are typically more expensive thanpermanent *but* it ultimately works out to be more cost effective onceyou factor in the recruit/redundancy/gap costs. The team shrinks back tothe Core in between projects.Sensible studios plan for all of these things and build their businesswith this in mind and also build in some contingency into their coststo enable them to burn some of their profits to keep a consistent teamrunning during the lean times. Larger studios can also mitigate this byhaving multiple projects and moving people between projects as thenatural ebb and flow of project demands occur.If you’re a work-for-hire/self-funded studio working for little profitwho employs 100% of your staff on a permanent basis then expectredundancies at the end of every project and or the businesscompletely failing.As the saying goes: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.As a business owner, think about this when you’re starting out as itcan make a real difference to the viability of your business. As a developer, look at the business you’re working in for thesigns of whether or not your likely to be around when the projectfinishes.

20 years of a Video Game Developer’s Career – Part 3

6 min read

I’d like to share with you my game development career experience as partof a series of posts, the 1stparttalked about my early career and I followed up with a secondpostthat was more about how those games were made. Let’s get back on track with the series and rejoin the fun back whenthe transition for PS1 to PlayStation 2 was happening.Krisalis v2 a.k.a Teque SoftwareAftera long and fruitful period of key game development the rest of the worldwas moving over to PlayStation 2 but we were still making games for PS1.It wasn’t for lack of effort and respect, indeed I attended manyexclusive PS1 & Saturn developer conferences across the globe. Over theyears, the PS1 conferences were held in a variety of amazing locationsincluding secret clubs and even in the middle of the top-secrethigh-speed ring at Millbrook ProvingGrounds. Saturn conferences were always held just outside of San Jose, California where I visited later as the venue for the emerging GD Conference, which I was also fortunate to regularly attend.I wasalso chosen for the exclusive 1st unveiling of the PS2 to the “cream ofthe development community” at a secretlocationalong with short list of developers. What made this event totally cool was that it took place right before a solar eclipse gripped the UK and the event itself opened with a mock solar eclipse!I was doing magazineinterviews and I even made it onto TV once!This is largely because we were one of the best studios in the world fordoing this work and that meant that we were the ones who biggerbusinesses wanted to keep pushing the same work to and we were type-castas safe PS1 developers. However this PS1 work was always going to cometo an end at some point. The visual quality and scope of even the bestPS1 games was rapidly becoming lack lustre when compared to what wasappearing on PS2 and PC at the time that really reinforced the demise.This eventually led to some of our projects being cancelled as the PS1nose-dived and it took our company with it.Sadly, the studio imploded and a few of us took the mantle and tried tobreathe life back into it under a new name ‘Teque Software’ where Iplayed the role of Technical Director along side 2 other directors butit just didn’t work out and it only lasted for a few months as we stillhad the same reputation that we just couldn’t shake off. This wasbecoming worse as the other ‘new’ studios were pushing ahead on thenewer platforms and we were getting further behind.The closure of the studio came as a surprise to pretty much everyoneinvolved but if you’ve ever ran a business in the UK you’ll appreciatethe secrecy that these things have to be done under. As much as I wantedto tell people, I couldn’t as that would have been a clear breach of myresponsibilities to the business as a director. I would have probablybeen in a lot of legal trouble if I’d have done it too. So, the closureof the studio left a bitter taste in a lot of people’s mouths andeveryone scattered to find new jobs all over the UK. I had adouble-whammy here because my wife also worked there too, meaning thatwe were both redundant on the same day.Runecraft - levelling up and bad management.After the end ofKrisalis I quickly found a job going back to my roots as a programmer onPlayStation 2 where I worked on core animation related programmingsystems for a licensed platform game. Sadly, it turned out thatRunecraft’s management were a bunch of crooks and totally shafted theirstaff but I didn’t find that out until later.What I did get out of this period was an opportunity to connect withsome talented people and also work on PlayStation 2 games and reallylearn about those. I fortunately was seconded to a remote part ofRunecraft that was based in Leeds, 15 miles away from the head office.This meant that we had little involvement with HQ and we could just geton with things.I met a lot of truly great people in Leeds, all of which were ex-SonyLeeds and most had worked on the likes of Wipeout / Colony Wars. Theirskills were amazing and a real level above what I’d seen at Krisalis andI learned absolutely loads and I still connect with these people today.Getting back to non-management roots was refreshing and re-filled mytechnical knowledge to a level where I understood the nuts & bolts ofPS2 development that I’d later find to be incredibly useful.The over promising and dodgy dealings of the management caught up withthem and the company collapsed inwards. There’s only so many times youcan try to deceive a publisher before they find you out and that’sinevitable.How the Leeds studio closed was like something out of a movie. I wasmaking my way into work and I got a call from one of the otherprogrammers that things were kicking off. I eventually made it to thestudio to find the doors locked and all of my colleagues stood outside.I was told the studio had closed and we were all redundant. Now, givenwe all pretty much hated the management this was both a blessing and acurse at the same time.The door opened to the studio and a head popped out and called a name,that person was escorted to their desk where they collected theirpersonal belongings and then escorted off the premises. This process wasrepeated for everyone in the studio, a slow one-by-one procession.The mobwas angry but I never got to see the end of it. Why? Because it turnedout my contractual place of work was back at HQ along with 2 others fromthe Leeds studio. What happened next was just bizarre, one of those MPVlike vehicles turned up and the 3 of us were bundled into the back alongwith one of the managers and we were driven back to HQ. I’m notexaggerating, this is really what happened. When we arrived we wereescorted to our separate desks in the ‘programming barn’ and told to dosome work on project X. To say I was surprised was an under-statementand they almost dismissed the fact that any of this had happened but youcan imagine I vowed to leave ASAP. I was completely annoyed because mytransport home was back at the Leeds office so when I was released I hadto go back there, then back home. It’s making me angry just writing thisnow.I suffered this for a few weeks while I found another job but Iabsolutely hated it as we treated as immigrants, we were given all theterrible jobs and we weren’t motivated to really do any work either.What I learned was that annex/remote studios are always the 1st thingsto go when a company is hitting financial troubles. It’s like cuttingoff a gangrenous limb to save the body. All of the work can be broughtback in-house and it gives the business a clear criteria to dump a loadof people.I also learned that a tight-knit group of motivated and happy developerscan achieve more than the sum of their parts.What next? Onwards and upwardsI was fortunate to be have formed strong relationships with peopleacross the industry and I was brought in as employee #2 for the newlyformed Kuju studio in Sheffield where the next phase of my career beganincluding many of the people I’d worked with in Leeds on the emergingplatforms.This is where we’ll join the story next time…Further Reading Series Part1 Series Part2

20 years of a Video Game Developer’s Career – Part 2

5 min read

I follow on from Part 1 of thisseries with some more information on how I got where I am today in the video game development community. Most of the old stuff is irrelevant but I hope it shares the need to actively plan your career to avoid some development cul-de-sacs.Let’s continue…I wrapped up the previous post where I’d pretty much reached a pointwhere I recognised a need to get a grip of my own career and make somelong-term plans, after all, no-one else was going to do this for me andthis wasn’t going to happen overnight. Of course, this was all based onassumption that everything else would stay the same in that the waygames were being made wouldn’t change too much and we all know how wrongthat assumption was.I’m not going to talk specifically about the games I’vemade as that information is available in lots of other places but but more about my career so far.Inresponse to some comments on the 1st part I thought I’d embellish ontypical examples of how we made the games back then too. I see echos ofthese early development concerns being raised on small mobile platformsall of the time. Remember we’re back in the days of no network(definitely no internet), no development conferences, no degree courses,no source control, virtually no support. You did this on your own,learnt everything yourself and the only way you got stuff around was tocopy it onto a floppy disk.100% system take overThe early games were largely done on the target machine with very littledebug facilities available. You made a change, compiled your code, ranit, if it crashed then it was obviously the last thing you did. It’strue to say that we didn’t have linkers either, so everything was in 1file typically called ‘MAIN.S’ or similar, graphics were largelyincluded within that file as a series of HEX numbers that weretranslated from the original files via some custom tools. A gametypically took over the whole system as there wasn’t really the notionof an operating system that was efficient enough for games to use, wewanted 100% of everything available tous: memory, cpu, gpu, etc. The games didn’t share the system with anything else, everything had to be within the game.You can imagine that these single files were pretty big and we startedto push the text editors capabilities but that thankfully coincided withthe advent of linkers that meant we could split our files out intosensible chunks.It’s worth remembering that the floppy disks themselves were largelyjust storage, we came up with our own file-formats and file loadingroutines from scratch typically accessing the hardware at a low-level.For us this was an iteration of the custom tape loaders that had beenthe norm back on C64/Spectrum where they were necessary to speed uploading times via ‘turbo’ loads and the like. Our loaders typicallyinvolved decompression routines too as we constantly tried to improvethe loading times and how much content we could fit on a disk. We alsorolled our own security systems with the hope of stalling the piratesripping off our games for at least a few hours.Memory ManagementClever games were starting to use dynamic memory management instead ofthe fixed memory maps of old, these came with a massive 12-byteroverhead per allocation so it was quite expensive. We naturally hitmemory fragmentation problems quickly such as where we’d load a fileinto region ‘A’, then decompress to ‘B’ and free up ‘A’ to be re-used,i.e., typically adjacent AB. Now, if the next file you wanted to loadwasn’t 100% identical to ‘A’ then you’d end up using some of it, maybeeven decompressing within that space too and the whole process rapidlybroke down into chaos as the largest single consecutive piece of memorydwindled into nothing.The quickest solution to fragmented memory? Bi-directional allocation,i.e., load files from the end of memory down and then decompress fromthe bottom up. This also resulted in the revelation that given a littlebuffer space you can decompress over the top of the source file, whichwas mighty useful when your last file was loaded.So, all of our game files obviously had to be compressed and this tookquite a while to do on the relatively slow systems we had too. The toolswe built on PC were entirely custom made and we had our own compressionroutines based on generally available ones, which were specialised toaccomodate the specific needs of bitmaps, audio and level data.The alternative use of compressionOur tools at the time had lots of stats, bouncing colours, meters goingup and down, progression bars and all manner of bells and whistles. Itwas often the case that most of the content of these frontends waslargely ‘fluff’ and that they gave us an excuse to do other things, I’deven say that some of our tools gave the illusion of them doing lots ofwork even though they’d finished! They simply waited a special keystrokecommand to ‘finish’ their processing. This was very handy sometimes whenyou just needed to be undistracted and you could just say “it’s stillpacking”. :)File Editors & Remote DebugThe advent ofremote debugging using SNASM dev-kits (later renamed PsyQ) brought inthe use of proper compilers, linkers, debuggers and text editors. Thedebugger was *the* most important aspect of the whole setup and thecompany called SN Systems still makes the systems of choice for PS3 development.Back then though, PC systems running DOS were the de facto standard andthe ubiquitous text editor then was‘BRIEF’, which was a revelation because it not only restored your session but also enabled you to have multiple files open in split windows! Later versions also integrated the error messages from your tools that meant you could quickly jump around your code and fix the errors quickly without referencing a separate compiler output file. I’ll continue my career story in Part 3…

20 years of a Video Game Developer’s Career - Part 1

9 min read

Since a young age I’ve always had an interest in making computer gamesand I’ve been very fortunate to have supportive parents who worked hardto get what I now understand to be very expensive bits of hardware overthe years. I thought I’d share some background of how I ended up where Ihave today with some luck and some foresight…I used to spend hours lurking around the only computer shop for milesaround, playing with the JupiterAceand the ZX80 in the shops marvelling at what they could do.I was extremely fortunate toget a Sinclair ZX81 for Christmas one year but it didn’t come with anyway of getting games into it other than the usual way of typing inlistings from magazines such as Sinclair User. I learned a tremendousamount during this period as I played around and adapted these earlyprograms into something unique and my 1st game was one about avoiding amonster for as long as possible so there was even a tiny amount of AI inthere (not that I knew that).I seemed to be on the periphery of the generation of Sinclair Spectrumand Commodore 64 owners as I managed to get a BBC Micro Model B, whichwas awesome for programming. I started to write 6502 assembler on theBeeb and migrated towards hacking ROMs and reverse-engineering otherpeople’s games as well as writing my own home-brew games.My background in 6502 (not Z80) made for a natural progression to the68000 series used on the Atari ST/Amiga whilst my friends who cut theirteeth on the Z80 used in the ZX Spectrum ended up going more towards8086 used in PC. This was my most active programming period when Iabsorbed so much info and I started specialising in the Atari ST via thedemoscene groups as I started to really push what was possible on the STas I desperately tried to prove the ST was just as capable as the Amiga(which it wasn’t). For those of you on the scene I wrote trackerplayers, full-screen scrollers, bitmap emulators, hi-colour displays,border busters, highly optimised sprite renderers and much much more.All of which emulated what could be achieved easily in hardware on theAmiga but I had to try very hard and be inventive to get the same out ofthe weedy ST. Everything I knew was entirely self-taught.The demoscene was super cool and underground, it felt like we were onthe bleeding edge of computer software and there are a lot of gamedevelopers who have been involved with the scene at some point or otherin their career. I still keep in touch with some of these people butmost have moved onto other things.I was alsoteaching other people how to program these demos & elements at my localcomputer clubs, all of which were the core components of games. I foundout later that some of these people were professionally making games andwere secretly bringing their problems to the computer club andpresenting them as challenges that I’d help them solve, then they’d goback into the game. They were quite surprised when I turned up later andthey were shown for what they really were.Being Paid To Make Games!So, this is where my professional career started as I was approached atthe computer club I’d been attending for nearly 2 years and asked if I’dlike a job making games! No interview, no test, just a job offer from abloke who’d been lurking around in the background at the club for weeksbut I only recognised this in hindsight.Alligata Software - 1987My first job was at Alligata Software in Sheffield where I wasprogramming both the Atari ST/Amiga versions of a C64 classic verticalshooter called ‘Trap’. There were 5 of us bottled up in an office in Sheffield churning away at making games the best we could. I know for definite that 3 of us are still making games today in 2010! We’d all work really hard during the day, we’d got to the pub together then we’d go home and do some more for ourselves. It was an addiction really and I can still see this happening in motivated, committed game developers today and I can sympathise with them.I was writing hardcore 68000 assembler code for ST and Amiga in aprofessional environment and this was going to be my first commercialgame, to be honest, I would have done it for nothing ‘cos I loved doingit so much. I wrote most of the early stuff on K-Seka, which was prettyhard-core low level stuff as it was all written on the target machineand there was no mouse interface. Crashes and lost work were just partof life but it was always better the next time around.There was no debugging other than to put coloured borders on your gameand then figure out which colour was showing when it crashed.What came as a surprise was when we turned up to work one day to findthe office doors locked and all of the furniture gone! Yup, the companyhad folded overnight taking our jobs with it and the boss didn’t havethe decency to tell us, we were left to draw our own conclusions. Jonno(there’s always one) hunted down the boss and we got our last wages andthat was that. Just when I’d got my favourite job doing what I love itall went pop overnight.Wise Owl Software - 1988I quickly got a job working for another game developer setup inRotherham called ‘Wise Owl Software’, which was initially setup toprovide educational software but we had better ideas. :)My 1st job was to make agame on Atari 2600 called ‘Oops’, yes the first home console, whichsuited me down to the ground because it was all about getting the mostout of the tiny bit of hardware. It meant pulling on all of my demo &6502 experience and it was a real test. As a synopsis, it had 4x1Kbmemory, no DMA for the display, 8 pixel wide ‘playfields’ that onlycovered 1/2 the screen width, 1 pixel wide ‘ball’ and that was it. Ittook some real skill to get anything like a game out of that thing but Iloved it. This was the 1st time I worked on a PC and had my work sent tothe target ‘2600’, which saved me a lot of time an meant I didn’t losemy work 1/2 as much.My next few jobs were working mostly on Amiga/ST where I made a fewgames that never really saw the light of day with the exception of ‘WarMachine’. All written in 68000 assembler along with some optimisation for the various flavours that were starting to appear such as the A600, 68020/68030 Amigas. Modular scalable code was starting to be a necessity.Things were going well and we decided to ditch theedutainment connotations of the Wise Owl name and after some jigglingabout we re-formed the company as ‘H2O’ and I joined as a director.Sadly, the other directors didn’t really do anything so I made off overthe horizon onto my next venture.Teque Software / Krisalis - 1989![](/assets/shadow_warriors_01-207x300.jpg "shadow_warriors_01")I joined Teque Software as a Amiga / ST programmer and I continued towork on those platforms, gradually working on larger and larger projectswith the biggest one being, Amiga+St+C64+Spectrum+Amstrad by 6 peoplefor 17 weeks! Wow! Yes, that’s how long it took us to make a game backthen.We were always trying to push what the St/Amiga could deliver and mybest commercial game on those platforms included streaming from floppydisk, borderless full-screen scroller with loads of sprites. That gamewas Shadow Warrior.Dev-Kits, QA, C and networks - a new ERANot long after that anew bit of kit appeared called SNASM, which was a remote development kitthat plugged somewhere into the target machine. This meant we all workedon fast Atari ST machines with hard-drives, remember it had all been onfloppy up to now, and we could send our code down to the target machineand debug it! Wow! You can imagine what a difference this made to ourworking lives.Along with these changes came the use of ‘C’ language for games but itwas too slow for what we wanted but it promised great things and I beganto use it for tools and whatever else I could get away with.We also got out 1st network around this time too as we’d previously beencopying things around on floppy disk. Again, this was a massiveimprovement over what we’d had before and enabled us to pass artwork andbuilds around quickly.I vaguely remember this is when we actually had a ‘tester’ in the studiotoo, whose job it was to just play the games and tell us about bugs. Itwas about this kind of time anyway.So, as you can imagine things were changing amazingly quickly and if youdidn’t adapt quickly you were dead both as an individual and a business.The Realisation of the need to plan a CareerThis is the time when I worked with some great people but I also workedwith some significantly older people who I really didn’t get on with. Ifelt these people were holding me back and I also didn’t want to be likethem. I don’t know what happened but something didn’t feel right and achange was required.It was around about this time when I remember stopping and thinking “DoI really want to be a 50-year-old programmer like them? Having youngerpeople running rings around me?”. So I made an active decision to plan along-term career and actively avoid being swallowed by the wave ofchange that follows us around constantly.I envisaged being some kind of technical manager or owning my own gamecompany at some point in the future and if I was to do that I needed tomake some changes. These were the days when there were seeminglyinfinite opportunities and adverts from Ocean proclaiming your Ferrariwas waiting for you if you made games.I started to push to what we’d now call a Lead Programmer role, stillfocusing on Amiga/ST at the time and I worked on a lot of football gamesthen too so I was gaining genre and management experience. I started tomanage more and more people and started to purely focus on managementand tech direction.Everything was changing around that time too, the SNES had taken off andthe Saturn and PlayStation were looming and I had to be on thoseplatforms.So, what did I do next? Lets find out in Part 2… where I’llcontinue the story along with some analysis on things like salaries,roles and events.

Are you good enough to make 3D games?

1 min read

If you’re going to be looking to make 3D games, you’re going to need thebest programmers you can find, or strip your artwork down to nothing.I’m sure you’re familiar with the basictech: you wear glasses that control which eye sees the view from a slightly different angle giving the illusion of 3D.There is of course a massive technical consideration for 3D games, thatthey have 1/2 your frame rate as you’re now rendering twice as much asyou were before. (This is a gross assumption based on the fact thatyou’re render bound)Those beautiful silky games that did run at 60fps, drop a frame andyou’re now run at 30fps tops (2 frames at 60fps). There is no 50fps or40fps, it’s straight down to 30fps. The next jump down is 20fps (3frames at 60 fps) and it goes on from there but in less damaging leaps.I know from experience that it takes a lot of effort to hit 60fps andmost games only just scrape through as they try to balance content withframe rate so this jump is going to hit them hard. After all, why wasteempty frame time when you can make your game look even better.Optimising your game engine and balancing your content to hit therequired throughput is going to take some effort, and of course this iseffort your not spending on adding game content. It’s just a slog to getthrough.On top of these there’s the aesthetic game design to get through tomaximise the sensation of 3D and to avoid the problems it brings withit. The added sense of realism can amplify sensations of motion sicknessand it can all go wrong when that sense of illusion is shattered whenthe shark coming out of the screen at you clips the edge of the screenand your brain knows it’s fake.The 3D games I’ve played have been hit & miss and some haven’t made thetransition to 3D well and need to go back to the drawing board for someoptimisation and design improvements.There are some fantastic opportunities out there for 3D games and ittakes talent and expertise to make 3D game sing.Further ReadingHousemarque - SuperStardust HD at120fps The inspiringpost

Guest Post – Three Ways to Zap Stress During Crunch

5 min read

Stress is a fact of 21st-century life, and all the more so when you’reworking on big, high-pressure projects. I’ve worked in a projectsenvironment for most of the past 20 years, and I know how it gets. Youstart to become irritable, forgetful, you may find yourself dreamingabout work, you’re tired but you can’t sleep well, you might even startto find loud noises and bright lights painful. It’s not fun.Basically, what’s happened is that what is meant to be a short-termresponse for getting you out of immediate physical danger, increasingyour concentration and memory and awareness of your environment, haskept firing off over a long period, and now those exact responses aregetting worn out - as if you’d kept lifting a weight with the same hand,over and over, until your muscles get fatigued and stop workingproperly.So what can you do? On the principle that a problem well defined is halfsolved, let’s start with a definition of stress.What Stress IsThis is my simplified version of the Kim-Diamond definition (in NatureReviews Neuroscience, 2002). It has three parts. Something is measurably winding up your physical state. You don’t like it. You don’t feel in control.All three parts are important. If you love riding roller-coasters, forexample, part 2 of the definition isn’t fulfilled, and even thoughyou’re physically stimulated and you’re not controlling theroller-coaster, it’s not (by this definition) stress.Funny story, by the way. I was talking about stress to the local Rotaryclub, and had accidentally left my notes at home. At one point, havingalready told them that there were three parts to the definition ofstress, I realised when I was about to give the third part that Icouldn’t remember what it was. I started in on the sentenceanyhow: “And the third part of the definition of stress is…”Fortunately, by the time I got that far I’d remembered it. (Take a lookabove at what the third part is and you’ll realise why this gave me alaugh later on.)What You Can Do About StressAs I hinted, the definition contains important clues to three ways toreduce stress. There’s something we can do about each of the threeparts. The physical approach starts with calming down your body. Thevery simplest way to do this is with breathing. After all, you’repretty much guaranteed to be breathing (if you’re not, you haveworse problems than just stress), and while we can’t stop breathingvoluntarily, we can consciously control the depth and rhythm of ourbreath.The old advice to take a few deep breaths in a stressfulsituation works. The reason is that when your body gets into its“stress mode”, it starts to breathe shallowly and rapidly. You canturn that around and feed it back, so that by breathing deeply andmore slowly, you signal the brain to calm down and switch back into“maintenance mode”, where it can repair itself, digest food and doall those other useful processes. (The parts of the brain that control breathing and the parts thatdeal with strong emotion are practically next to each other, alongwith the areas that control heartbeat and blood pressure.) Other physical calming techniques include progressive musclerelaxation and meditation. The emotional approach addresses the fact that you don’t likethe stress, that you find it unpleasant. There are so many emotionaltechniques that I’m creating a whole course on them (the EmotionalCircuit-Breaker Toolkit), buthere’s one simple three-step process that works extremely well. It’scalled the Welcoming Practice.Step 1 is to become aware of thelocation of the emotion in your body. Something will havetightened, be vibrating, be warm or cool - you’ll know it almost assoon as you pay attention to it. Just be aware of it for now. Takeyour time. Step 2, when you’re ready for it, is to name the emotion andaccept its presence. The form of words I use is “Welcome, anger”(or fear or sadness or whatever it is - there may be severalemotions, in which case I welcome each of them by name). Saying thename sets up a circuit between the inner “emotion feeling” parts ofyour brain and the outer “word processing” parts in the cerebralcortex, and drains off the activation (Liebermann et al.,Psychological Science, May 2007). “Welcoming” the emotion (not thecircumstances, by the way, just the emotion) releases yourresistance to it, which is a big part of what is causing the stress. Step 3, again when you’re ready, is to gently let go of theemotion and allow it to subside. In effect, you’re telling yourbrain that the emotion isn’t needed right now, and so it can go backto its normal state. I used this to great effect not long ago. I was driving along theroad and some idiot in a Mini pulled out from a side road,completely illegally, right across my path. I braked and swerved andjust managed to avoid a crash. Now, at one time the fright and angerwould have stayed with me for an hour, but by using the WelcomingPractice, I was fine within a minute or two. The cognitive approach emphasises that, while you can’t alwayschange the outward situation, you can change the way you think aboutit - and that increases your sense of control.Newman & Stone wroteup an interesting experiment in Annals of Behavioural Medicine,June 1996. They showed two groups of people the same stressfulsilent film, and asked them to make up either a serious narrativeabout it (group 1) or a funny narrative (group 2). They hadpre-tested their participants for sense of humour, and haddeliberately put both high-humour and low-humour people in bothgroups.What they found was that, regardless of their score on thesense-of-humour test, the “funny narrative” group not only said theyfelt better but were less stressed, according to standard physicaltests, than the “serious narrative” group. The film was the same -only the story they told themselves about it was different. So there are three approaches to reducing stress. Whether you coachyourself to physically relax, shift your emotional state, or change howyou think about the situation, by using these practices you reduce harmto your body and mind and put yourself more in control.

Maximise your Developer Evolution

5 min read

Well, the inevitable has happened and by the time you’re reading thisI’ll have travelled 250 miles to start the next phase of gamedevelopment career in Guildford, the hub of game development in the UK.This prompted me to reflect on how things have gone over the last fewyears and what advice I can give.Why do I think that migrating to a game development  hub is inevitable?Because you cannot makes games in a vacuum and both your career and yourbusiness need talent to feed on or you will starve.(BTW pretty much all of my posts are scheduled, but don’t tell anyone)I have long supported game development throughout the whole of the UKand Europe along with  it’s self-sufficient pockets but ultimately thelarger your studio becomes or the further your career progresses themore you need to have access to talented people and lots of options.Long, long agoI cut my teeth in the video games industry around Sheffield, SouthYorkshire, UK. In the late 1980s there was of companies to choose fromand lots of people wanting to get into game development. I worked for 5companies in the area, all with varying degrees of success but we allindirectly relied on the mighty Gremlin Graphics (later to becomeInfrogrames) to underpin the area. People went in, people came out, theytrained people and we trained developers for them. It was a symbioticrelationship that was replicated throughout the UK. We needed eachother.These hubs of game development exist and can attract developers andtalent from far and wide, after all if things don’t work out thenthere’s plenty of other opportunities. Both as a developer looking towork on great games and also as a studio looking for talent. The creamslowly floats to the top and the detritus sink to the bottom andeventually leave.Micro-climatesThese symbiotic collections of game development studios and talent arecarefully balanced micro-climates and it only takes one thing to gowrong and the whole thing implodes leaving people reeling and trying tomake amends.The collateral effect of this implosion is often a collection of smallstudios all competing against each other for a dwindling talent pool asthe developers leaving seek stability. Some stay behind but new talentis hard to attract, experts are expensive and you need quite a bigstudio in order to fund this kind of beast, which is beyond the reach ofmany small studios unless those experts are the ones setting up thestudios.As a developer, it becomes a high risk strategy to relocate yourselfinto such a dwindling zone for a single job with no alternatives shouldit not go quite as you, your employer or your staff imagine. Thisbecomes even tougher if you have family in tow.Regional Development is KeyFor this reason, I had many meetings with the Yorkshire and HumbersideRegional Development agency to try to encourage them to stop promotingindividual companies and to nurture the region. At the time, they werewandering off to E3, GDC and pretty much everywhere saying “Come andwork for Company A”, “Why do you graduates come and work for Company B”.Why would anyone? We’re not stupid and we want to be making games for along time, not just until this bubble bursts and we have to relocate,again.Far, far awayI am aware that there are some developers who struggle because of theirisolation, I have talked to them, been asked by friends about going towork for them and considered them to do business with when I was lookingfor games to develop. This is primarily a concern for publishers lookingto commission games with developers who need to expand as this onlymakes sense if they can get talent.You cannot ignore this isolation and the distances involved inconnecting with the hubs as it can be a blocking issue. The prize has tobe very special to warrant the personal investment in both sides.Here’s a choice if you were commissioning a game: a) Developer A - easy to get to, has ability to tap talent to expandand game is “sure-fire hit”. b) Developer B - 6 hour one-way journey door-to-door, only “local”people work there, game is “amazing”Which one would you choose?Sticky Bad PeopleThere is of course another aspect to this where lack of local optionscan cause bad people to hang around rather than move on. They start outgreat but soon they get bored,  stagnate, begin to rot and becomeentrenched in a “job” doing “work” because they now need money to paythe mortgage and they can’t get a job anywhere else. Employment lawmakes them nearly impossible to remove so you have to be vigilant andpro-actively fix this before it becomes a problem.Thriving CommunitiesThankfully, there are still a few pockets that are thriving and haveproper regional development with protection of their micro-climate andthese remain good pockets to aimfor: North East UK and South East UK are the hubs right now with the strongest pool being Guildford.Bullfrog, then Electronic Arts was the fuel that the Guildforddevelopment community burned to get itself into orbit as a regionalstar.From personal experience, sadly my home region is now dead. There’spretty much 1 developer there now and if you don’t want to work for themthen it’s a 1hr trip to the nearest one. This makes it pretty muchimpossible to choose a nice stable location to setup.Where should you be?As a startup business, once you get your game up and running and youstart to need more talent to progress you obviously need to be somewherewhere there is an existing pool of talent you can tap into. Then theonly risk for your staff is the project, not what there future prospectsare if you don’t make it.Think: “If I need 10 people, why would they come and work here?”As your personal career progresses, you’re likely to want to settle downand to do this you need options so you can keep fresh and hopefullymitigate the threat of redundancy without the need to uproot your lifeand move somewhere far away. Therefore, settling into a hub seems theright choice.Non-UK developers - Is this an international phenomenon?I can only really share my observations of the UK industry but what doyou guys think of this internationally?I assume that the fact that most major publishers and platform holdershave their offices in the UK or USA must affect you?SummaryI’ve watched many developers and people make the wrong decisions theyneed to make to maximise their potential. I hope this post gives you abroader view on the nature of choosing your physical location within thegames industry and the impact it has.Let me know how you feel about this too.

What’s your point of difference?

2 min read

Bear with me on this one…I’m currently sat watching a TV programme inthe UK called ‘Mary Queen Of Shops’, which is of particular interest because they’re focusing on a business I know near my house.The programme features Mary, who goes into a failing local businessand revamp it into something much more successful.Why am I writing about it? What on earth has it got to do with videogame development? I felt compelled to write something while theprogramme is still on airI can’t help but draw similes from thisprogram when comparing small indie games (local shops) and AAA budgetgames (supermarkets). The message here is that it’s absolutely pointlessfor the indies to try to be the big guys, you’ll never win them at agame that they control. You don’t have the budgets and backing they dobut it doesn’t mean you can’t be awesome.Find Your NicheWhat you have to do is find a niche, specialise, bring game playerssomething truly unique and special that whole teams of marketeers,producers, legal, financial people and a whole myriad of other peoplewon’t get behind because it’s not something they understand or doesn’tfit on an existing shelf.I love gameslike Godfingerand God Of War, I actually have more time for the former but I enjoy the spectacle of the latter.Indies - forget trying to emulate the big guys. Make something you’repassionate about as that always shows through in a game.Don’t Be BlinkeredDo you have a narrow-minded view of how your game works? Can you openyour eyes to criticism? Are you actually any good (I wrote aboutthis recently)?As I sit and watch these people on TV ignore the obvious truth and I canonly think about game developers I’ve met who are adamant that theirgame is awesome despite everyone telling them different. There’s only 1side that’s losing out here.Have an X StatementInterestingly, the programme has just show the tag line, by line, xstatement for the business. It’s a short statement that reallyencapsulates what you’re doing with your game, your business or even ifit’s what you as a person want to achieve.SummaryI started watching this series of programmes with local interest and Ihonestly think there’s something we can all learn for game developmentby watching the pain someone else goes through on our behalf.The trick is to think about what’s being said if applying it to your ownworld of game development.As Mary would say - “What’s your point of difference?”I would say, that we don’t need to end up naked covered in veg to besuccessful. :)Further ReadingBlog Post - Are YouUnique? Blog Post - Weakest Link – Be A Better GameDeveloper

Generalist or Specialist game developer?

1 min read

Whilst researching teams, I recently came across 2 similar concepts thatdescribe the skills of people working in your beloved game developmentindustry - “T-Shaped” people and “Generalising Specialist”.I wanted to know more about them and how these types relate to myexperience of people and if the idea gives me something for me to learn.The shape of the letter is a nice way to visualise someones skill withthe horizontal stroke ‘——–‘ referring to the breadth of someonesskills and the vertical ‘|’ referring to how skilled they are in thatparticular skill.Therefore, “T-Shaped” people have a principal skill that describesthe vertical leg of the ‘T’, they’re multi-player level designers,script writes, AI programmers or shader artist. However, they have abroad understanding of how things fit together and can branch out intoother skills when required although this may not be their strongestarea. They can also see  things from multiple perspectives and beinspired and diverse.“Generalising Specialist” is a term given to someone who has a broadset of skills that peak in one particular area *but* they can slidebetween similar roles when required. E.g., a level designer who can alsoscript, a gameplay programmer who can also prepare UIs, an animator whocan also sculpt.‘I-Shaped’ people are highly skilled in a particular area, more sothan is seen in people with broader skills, but they pay for this depthof knowledge with a much narrower skillset. This narrow, but deep, setof skills may not be required for a whole project and this may be whereyou consider outsourcing, freelancers or contract workers to hit thesweet spot without taking the hit of them having nothing to do outsideof that one task.When building a team it’s important to include various types of peoplein order to succeed. Generally smaller teams start out with all T-shapesand as the team grows and more specialists are needed then the‘I-Shaped’ people start to appear to when the team and the game start torequire more specialist knowledge.What type of person are you? I think I’m ‘T’ shaped. :)Further Reading GeneralizingSpecialists: Improving Your IT CareerSkills The Ten Faces ofInnovation -IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate & DrivingCreativity Throughout Your Organization.

5 Top Tips from a Freelance Game Programmer

1 min read

I recently reconnected with an old friend who’s been a Freelance GameProgrammer for many years, I asked him what advice he could give tosomeone just starting out and here’s his toptips:I particularly like his ethos: “value-for-money & minimum hassle”, because contractors/freelancers have a general reputation for being otherwise (Expensive & demanding)Rhys Twelves, 12 Code Monkeys Ltd, UK’sRhys’ reply: The only real tips I have are:- 1. If you can, try to avoid VAT registration due to the overhead ofquarterly returns, and the VAT man being able to audit you morereadily.(unless you employ someone to sort this all out) 2. Get a good accountant, they are worth their weight in gold, as theyknow what you can/cannot claim for as a legitimate business expense, andgive could advice as to where to invest your profits. 3. Make yourself as flexible as possible. Making games is still a blackart (in terms of production especially) and so plans will almostcetainly change from milestone to milestone. For a contractor/freelancerit is important that you can adapt with the project (within reason). If5 days/week becomes 6 or even 7, then you should already have plansafoot that can support the change. It’s a second-guessing game, but it’sworth it. 4. In my experience, being flexible can be more valuable to productionthan being fast/excellent at your work. If a producer knows they canrely on you to be in the office on any given Sunday, they’ll take thatover having to find work for you from somewhere because you finishedyour milestones early. 5. To be honest Simeon, I’m still learning as I go along, and differentcompanies have different needs & expectations, but my ethos (if you cancall it that) is to be “value-for-money & minimum hassle”, and onlybecause contractors/freelancers have a general reputation for beingotherwise (Expensive & demanding).Rhys is a top bloke and I highly recommend him for any programming taskyou’ve got. You’ll be amazed at the knowledge Rhys has, how insightfulhis views are and just how quickly and well he solves problems. Rhys isworth his weight in gold.